PUBLISHED: 17:18 17 February 2014 | UPDATED: 17:18 17 February 2014
When the seasonal advice from Mother Nature is to curl up and sleep, with an added the layer of fat to see us through the winter months, it would seem that, once again, the human race thinks they know better and so does the opposite!
The done thing in January is to detox, exercise and obsess about losing weight. While I wouldn’t encourage you to imitate the lifestyle of a hedgehog or dormouse I do think they may have the right idea and look on them with envy. We should combat the dull days and dismal skies with comfort food that makes us content, keeps us warm and give us a good helping of nostalgia to see us through the dark nights. I love winter food, it’s not a time for exotic ingredients, new methods of cookery or food whose primary role is to look pretty on a plate. It’s proper food!January’s recipe is one that’s has appeared in cookery books for decades and the sorely missed esteemed food writer Mary Norwak claimed this for our county, writing of her Norfolk bread pudding. I’m going to use my mum’s recipe, as it was a mainstay of my dad’s pack-up lunch for years. Not to be confused with the fancy bread and butter version, this is a poor man’s classic and, as is often the case, it tastes all the better for that.
I’ve made it the traditional way, using suet, andthere’s no doubt it adds a depth of flavour that complements the time of the year. You can, of course, use a vegetarian suet or even substitute it with butter, but what you won’t get is that surreal experience you get when you eat it cold. That layer of fat that coats the top of you palate, not at all unpleasant but perhaps an acquired taste.
We’ve been eating this for weeks. I thought I’d try it on all the team, as I was worried it wasn’t “fancy”enough for us, but everyone has asked for a second and even third slice!
Serve it warm with cream, rum custard or cream for a taste that will stay in your memory for many winters to come.
Pre-heat oven to Gas Mark 4/180°C
450g white bread, preferably stale
200g dried mixed fruit
100g chopped peel
100g soft brown sugar
2 heaped teaspoons mixed spice
¼ of a nutmeg
1 Remove the crusts and break up the bread.
2 Soak in milk.
3 Generously grate nutmeg on to the bread, leave to stand for at least 30 minutes.
4 Place the dried fruit and the peel into a large mixing bowl.
5 Add the suet.
6 Add the brown sugar.
7 Add the mixed spice.
8 Stir thoroughly.
9 Break the eggs into a bowl.
10 Beat with a fork.
11 Whisk the soaked bread to beat out any lumps.
12 Add the beaten eggs to the bread.
13 Add the dried fruit mixture.
14 Stir to mix well.
15 Pour in a well-greased tin.
16 Sprinkle with a little more brown sugar. Bake for 1½-2 hours. Dredge with sugar.
Richard Hughes is chef proprietor of th Lavender House at Brundall and the Richard Hughes Cookery school. He is also director of The Pigs Pub at Edgefield and The Assembly House, Norwich. www.thelavenderhouse.co.uk www.richardhughescookeryschool.co.uk